I’m often asked what Forest School is- people have heard of it, but not sure where it is. I’ve recently spoken to people who say their children have been to Forest School- and then tell me about the one afternoon they had. I know teachers who say they do Forest School on their school field- and talk about the planning they did to teach the lesson, as well as their need to keep the children clean. I’ve heard of Forest School birthday parties- where children attend just for one afternoon. Other people, including lecturers, teachers and some practitioners talk as if Forest School is solely couched to Early Years children. Each of these are observations, certainly not criticisms: everyone is working within their own experience, knowledge and practice context- which informs their thoughts. But these things do make me think of the varying interpretations and understandings of the approach.
So, this series of blog posts aims to do three things: it explores the Forest School approach to inform the reader of the definition of the approach; it allows me to reflect upon and distil my own thoughts, and finally, it presents the Forest School philosophy of Rewilding Adventure.
You’ll notice that the words Forest and School are capitalised. This is because the term Forest School is a noun- it is the title of an approach. Therefore, it needs to recognised as such. It might be a small thing, but when I see someone capitalising the words, I get a sense that they are informed about it. And that is the first point that I think needs to be made- Forest School is an approach to Outdoor Learning. With that in mind, there’s definition, and a set of principles, and a professional association that all underpin the approach. So, Forest School isn’t a place- it’s not the title of an education establishment; it isn’t a set curriculum. With that in mind, Forest School is a very varied thing- it can be done in very different settings, for all sorts of purposes- fundamentally, Forest School looks very different from one setting to another- one is not the right way- just the interpretation of the approach in that setting- indeed, I would say that my Forest School approach and practice is actually an evolution.
The definition of Forest School is:
‘[…] an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees’
(Forest School Association, 2018)
In the next post, the definition will be explored- including thoughts on how the elements are present within my practice.
In the meantime, you may like to have a look at the see the Forest School web page: https://www.rewildingadventure.co.uk/activities/forest-school/
As well as browsing the Forest School Association’s website: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/